Jane Silverstein Ries was Denver’s first female landscape architect and practiced for almost 60 years. A graduate of Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture for Women in Groton, Massachusetts (now a part of the Rhode Island School of Design), she created more than 1,500 landscapes in the Colorado region and specialized in city gardens, parks, hospitals, museums, churches, schools, city halls, and grand homes, including the Executive Residence of the Governor.
Jane possessed a natural sense of artistic balance, scale, proportion and a willingness to work. At Lowthorpe, she learned about land construction, drafting and plant material. As a part of her education, professors took the students on tours of palatial garden and houses along the North shore. She particularly recalled the Crane Estate with it’s 35 gardeners but she fell in love with Boston’s small Beacon Hill city gardens and those types of gardens became her specialty.
After Graduation in 1932, Jane came home to Denver, where just three landscape architecture firms were practicing at the time. She worked for one of the firms for a year and learned to adjust her training, which was geared to the East, to Colorado’s dry conditions.
Eventually, Jane left the firm and set up her own office above the garage of her parent’s home on 725 Franklin Street, where she had lived since she was 12 years old. The surrounding property became her experimental work area and she created a stunning walled city garden. In 1992, Jane’s home was listed as a Denver Historic Landmark. Many jobs came through family connections and she charged $5 dollars to design a garden. She used walls, fountains, good sculptures, although she still conformed to her client’s wishes and remarked that “a garden should be lived in, loved and used.”
Jane’s business grew, and eventually she was designing for public places and created the Herb Garden and the Scripture Garden for Botanic Gardens, which was pro-bono work.
She was chosen Woman of the Year in 1982 by the Colorado Garden and Home Show and was the first president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). In 1994 the Colorado Chapter of ASLA established the Jane Silverstein Ries Award to recognize those who demonstrate a pioneering sense of awareness and stewardship of land use values in the Rocky Mountain region.
From the book Women of Consequence by Jeanne Varnell.